SEATTLE -- The Patriots face a tough road test today against the Seahawks, but they should come away with a victory if they hit on these five keys:
- Stop Marshawn Lynch: The Seahawks are at their best when they are successful on the ground, and can use effective play action to open some space for quarterback Russell Wilson. If the Patriots can shut down Lynch, and make Wilson have to beat them, that's a huge boost for the Patriots.
- Mind Rice and Miller: When Wilson does throw it, he has preferred to go to tight end Zach Miller of late, so take that easy throw away from Wilson. Sidney Rice might not have the same speed as he used to, but he can still leap with the best of him. The safeties will need to give the corners some help over the top. Make Wilson beat you with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
- Throw it inside: The Seahawks are very big and physical at cornerback with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The safeties, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, are also very good. Where they are suspect is at nickel corner with Marcus Trufant, and at coverage with the linebackers. This is a game tailor made for Wes Welker to own the middle of the field. I don't expect him to be limited in any way from his post-game words about Bill Belichick last week. The two have come to an understanding, though I don't know what that is. It could be, "Yeah, we don't have anybody else so we love you Wes!” Would not be surprised if we see Danny Woodhead also used in inside passing game, and also Deion Branch.
- Start fast: The Patriots will want to silence the crowd early, and they've been great at getting off to good starts. They'll need another one to keep the crowd from being a factor. And his Seahawks team is one that is more dangerous the longer you let them hang around.
- Don't do stupid things: This is almost the same setup as the Cardinals game – good defense that can slow the Patriots down a little, and a limited offense that will have trouble moving the ball. The Patriots threw an interception early in the game, had a punt blocked, had ill-timed penalties and missed the game-winning field goal – dumb stuff – that allowed the Cardinals to win the game. If the Patriots can avoid those mistakes against the Seahawks, they should win.
The Seahawks should be competitive against the Patriots defensively for much of the game. Seattle can’t, however, score enough to keep up with Tom Brady if the Patriots don’t give them help. Ball security is a premium today. Will be interested to see how the Patriots deal with Dont’a Hightower and Tracy White being out today at linebacker. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Rob Ninkovich go back to strong-side linebacker, or for the Patriots to play 3-4 with Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Bobby Carpenter. That's their best alignment to stop the run, and I don’t think the Patriots are scared of Seattle's passing attack.
Patriots 24, Seahawks 17.